By Ryan and Justin of The Sportmeisters
With training camp a mere weeks away, The Sportmeisters are releasing their pre-pre-season Top 25. Look for this to change as training camp and two-a-days get under way.
1. Ryan: Florida – They return all the starters on offense and defense, with the exception of Percy Harvin. Add that up with a favorable schedule, and the Gators could spend the entire season at number one.
Justin: Florida – They’re bringing everyone back, including the “Hero” Tim Tebow.
2. Ryan: Oklahoma – With quarterback Sam Bradford, running backs DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, the Sooners boast one of the most formidable backfields. Replacing four offensive lineman and a tough Big 12 will be a challenge for them to conquer.
Justin: Texas - Besides quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receiver Jordan Shipley the Longhorns secondary should be much improved this season with a little experience underneath their belts.
3. Ryan: Texas – They lack a formidable running attack, going without a 1,000 yard rusher for the first time in ten years, and have to replace defensive end/linebacker Brian Orakpo, but with McCoy slinging the ball to Shipley and Malcom Willams, Longhorn fans will see a lot of pass-happy performances.
Justin: Oklahoma - With Bradford, Murray, and Jermaine Gresham back the Sooners will once again put up Arena Football-like numbers
4. Ryan: Ole Miss – Call me crazy, but they are for real, and the Rebels showed it when they thumped Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. Even without studs Michael Oher and Peria Jerry anchoring the offensive and defensive lines, respectfully, they have a formidable schedule and a top quarterback in Jevon Snead.
Justin: USC - The deepest program in the country year in and year out. Even with the linebacker corps depleted I expect the Trojans to not have a rebuilding year, but a reloading season.
5. Ryan: USC – The Trojans are on the bottom end of the top five because of the players they have lost to the NFL, but they don’t lack talent ready to replace them. Aaron Corp and Matt Barkley will fight head to head for the starting quarterback job, and coach Pete Carroll thinks next year’s Linebackers are better than the current crop that departed for the NFL.
Justin: Ohio State – Quarterback Terrelle Pryor will prove to be the most exciting quarterback in the country this season. If the defense can reload the Buckeyes will have a chance this season.
6. Ryan: Alabama – Nick Saban is finally using his own players, in his third year in Alabama, and after an undefeated regular season blew up in the SEC Championship Game, he is looking for vengeance. Nine returning defensive starters will help give the young squad some more experience. Quarterback Greg McElroy has an easy transition with RB Mark Ingram and wide receiver Julio Jones in his huddle.
Justin: Virginia Tech - I expect quarterback Tyrod Taylor to have a better season due to the fact that he was hampered by an ankle injury for most of the second half of last year.
7. Ryan: Oklahoma State – The Cowboys are loaded on offense, with quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Kendall Hunter and wide receiver Dez Bryant. However, new Defensive Coordinator Bill Young has a short leash, as offense may win games, but the Cowboys need defense to win a championship.
Justin: Ole Miss - The Ole Miss program is on the rise and the SEC better watch out for this exuberant and athletic team. Snead is very talented and must carry the offense on his shoulders this season.
8. Ryan: Virginia Tech – The ACC is still rebuilding itself, giving Virginia Tech an easy road through it. Taylor and running back Darren Evans lineup behind an athletic Offensive line and the defense is always formidable. Tough non-conference games do await, though.
Justin: Oklahoma State - One word: Offense. The Cowboys could have the second best offense in the Big 12. They must learn from last year and win the big games in order to make a run at the National Championship in 2009.
9. Ryan: Ohio State – Pryor has improved himself in almost every facet from his freshman campaign, and should become “The Man” in Year Two. Even without studs Chris Wells, James Laurinatis, and Malcom Jenkins, the Buckeyes will be the team to beat in the Big 10.
Justin: Notre Dame - The Bowl game against Hawaii last season could foreshadow the explosive capabilities of the Fighting Irish offense this season.
10. Ryan: Penn State – The other team to beat in the Big Ten will have to make due without their starting wide receivers and their lines, which were depleted thanks to graduation. Quarterback Darryll Clark and running back Evan Royster will keep the offense moving along.
Justin: Alabama - The key to this year’s team is defense with nine starters back. It will be hard to replace Andre Smith and John Parker Wilson.
11. Ryan: Oregon – Even without Coach Mike Bellotti roaming the sidelines, the Ducks are quite the opponent in 2009 still. They lost six players to the NFL, including first rounder center Max Unger, but quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is a duel threat that teams will have to monitor all season.
Justin: Penn State - With Clark back, the Nittany Lions must replace three talented wide receivers, along with three starters on the offensive line, but with an overrated Big 10 the Nittany Lions could come out on top this season.
12. Ryan: LSU – Its demolishing of Georgia Tech in the Peach Bowl helps merit this ranking after a disappointing 8-5 season. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson will look to keep the momentum from the bowl game into 2009, and with a new defensive coordinator and a top recruiting class, LSU could turn heads in 2009, but still look to be a year off.
Justin: TCU – They return eight starters and Senior defensive end Jerry Hughes.
13. Ryan: TCU – The Horned Frogs ended on a high note, beating previously unbeaten Boise State, and return eight starters on offense, including quarterback Andy Dalton, Hughes and his NCAA leading 15 sacks are also coming back on a stacked defense.
Justin: Kansas – Quarterback Todd Reesing to wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe will highlight some offensive firepower this season.
14. Ryan: Georgia Tech – The triple offense worked out well for the Yellow Jackets, but they were exposed in the Peach Bowl against LSU. With an entire offense returning for their second year under the new regime, including running back Jonathon Dwyer and quarterback Josh Nesbitt, GT should be running all over the ACC again.
Justin: Georgia Tech - While Paul Johnson has proved that he can win at any school he coaches at he must develop a passing game to remain in the Top 25 all season long.
15. Ryan: UNC – Butch Davis knows how to put football teams together, and in his third year at UNC, especially in a weak ACC still, he has the Tar Heels primed for success, despite the loss of Hakeem Nicks. Having nine defensive starters back and a healthy quarterback in T.J. Yates will undoubtedly help as well.
Justin: Georgia: The loss of quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno may prove to be too much to overcome, but the offensive line is healthy and more experienced this season.
16. Ryan: Iowa – Even without running back Shonn Greene, Iowa still has the talent to compete in 2009. The Hawkeyes return their entire linebacking corp and three of their four secondary starters, so look for them to keep up the hot streak that saw them win five of their last six in 2008.
Justin: Utah - The Utes have seven starters back on defense, but must replace quarterback Brian Johnson and someone must step up in the wide receiver position.
17. Ryan: Georgia – The preseason 2008 No. 1 suffered a myriad of injuries that saw a quick fall from grace, and now in 2009, they need to replace Stafford and Moreno. With the entire offensive line returning, the transition to quarterback Joe Cox should be minimal. The defensive pass rush will be the big question, as the Bulldogs had the SEC’s worst pass rush last year.
Justin: Iowa - The Hawkeyes will have one of the best offensive lines coming back this season and can pull off an upset against either Penn State or Ohio State (both on the road). It will be difficult to nearly impossible to manage wins in both of those games by having to replace Greene.
18. Ryan: Kansas – Despite the slip to 8-5, Kansas should be one of the top challengers in the Big 12 North, thanks to the return of Reesing and Briscoe. Some offensive line replacements and a trio of new linebackers will be a challenge to overcome.
Justin: West Virginia - Even though dual threat quarterback Pat White is gone there is still running back Noel Devine and a 6'8" playmaker at the wide receiver position by the name of Wes Lyons readily available.
19. Ryan: Utah – Last year was the year of the Ute, as Utah took home a 13-0 record and the Sugar Bowl Championship. However, they need to replace eight offensive starters, but they will return their entire linebacking corp in their quest for another BCS busting season.
Justin: Boise State - They need a new front seven, and their backfield is lighter without running back Ian Johnson.
20. Ryan: Nebraska – The Cornhuskers took some big steps towards returning to past glory in 2008. Bringing back seven defensive starters, and the expected emergence of running back Roy Helu should continue the improving trend.
Justin: LSU - If the Tigers have better quarterback play this season, they will be in the hunt to challenge for a SEC Championship game appearance.
21. Ryan: California – With running back Jahvid Best a legitimate 2009 Heisman contender, can quarterback Kevin Riley take advantage of defenses that stack the box? Without quarterback Nate Longshore around, Riley has the job all too himself, but needs to use his experienced receivers to his advantage and dominate a weak Pac-10 conference.
Justin: California - The Bears will have to play better on the road this season in order to have a shot at the Pac-10 title.
22. Ryan: Boise State – A Poinsetta Bowl hiccup prevented another perfect season for the Broncos, and now they look to succeed and rebuild at the same time. Quarterback Kellen Moore no longer has Johnson, and receivers Jeremy Childs and Vinny Perretta as targets, but has an experienced line in front of him. Replacing most of the defensive front seven will make the experienced secondary stay on their toes.
Justin: Nebraska - The Cornhuskers went 9-4 last season and should manage to get through the Big 12 North if they are able to run the football this season.
23. Ryan: Florida State – A smackdown of Wisconsin in the Champs Bowl helps the Seminoles build for 2009, but they will need some help. A loss of most of the receivers, as well as the vacated victories will hang over their head. Bringing back the entire offensive line will help quarterback Christian Ponder lead his new backfield, and the defense always contributes for the Seminoles.
Justin: North Carolina – They need someone to replace Nicks, but they do bring back seven defensive starters.
24. Ryan: Texas Tech – The Red Raiders are used to replacing big numbers, and will have to do so again, losing both quarterback Graham Harrell and wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Seven defensive starters return, as Texas Tech hopes to finally field a solid defense to complement their high-scoring offense.
Justin: Florida State – They bring back an experienced Ponder, and an even more experienced offensive line.
25. Ryan: BYU – They only return four offensive starters, but two of them are quarterback Max Hall and running back Harvey Unga Jr. Six of their defensive front seven return as well, making them a tough team to challenge.
Justin: BYU - Hall is back but the Cougars will have to rebuild the offensive line due to the loss of four starters.